“I remember. I remember everything.”
‘Jason Bourne’ is the fifth movie in a series of action thrillers, and the third to be directed by Paul Greengrass. It features Matt Damon as the titular ex-CIA assassin who, ten years after he exposed the corrupt operation that lead to his estrangement from the US intelligence service, finds himself drawn back in by an Edward Snowden-style cyber-leak. The main criticism that is levelled at Greengrass’s movies centres on the director’s almost constant use of shaky-cam, and it’s true that this makes the action difficult to follow. In this film, however, this is rather the point. Ten years ago, the Bourne movies exposed the weaknesses and excesses of the Bond movies, particularly 2002’s ‘Die Another Day’. It is tempting to see the same thing happening here. The plot of ‘Jason Bourne’ is almost identical to that of ‘Spectre’, dealing with the same themes of excessive surveillance and government agencies breaching their legal parameters. Greengrass’s movie, however, is as economical and tightly constructed as ‘Spectre’ is overblown and hyperbolic. The director’s characteristic camera technique is really a perfect match for the plot: ‘Jason Bourne’ is a film about confusion and the labyrinthine machinations of the modern world of intelligence agencies, and the fact that the camera movements make it difficult to comprehend what’s going on, especially during the crowd scenes and the car chases, seems to be intentionally drawing the viewer into this feeling of uncertainty. Indeed the final chase scene through Las Vegas is an almost abstract kaleidoscope of vehicular destruction. Greengrass does allow the camera to linger on certain key details, however. Like Robert Bresson in ‘Pickpocket’, he focuses on the movement of hands as they use computers, answer phones, arm guns and steal equipment. The camera also spends a lot of time in uncomfortable close-ups on the faces of actors. The effect of this is an action movie in which the actions and reactions of the characters are more important than the mechanics and spectacle of the stunts. This creates an entirely immersive experience in which you feel not only that you are with the characters, but also that you are in the same position of the characters. When the CIA is chasing Bourne using satellite feeds and team of agents, Greengrass’s direction gives the audience the same experience of hunting and tracking. Somehow, Greengrass has not only managed to update the Bourne franchise, whilst retaining the visual characteristics that made it so distinctive, he’s also demonstrated once again that the Bond franchise needs a refresh.
Would I recommend it? Yes – for me it’s one of the films of the year so far. The complete synergy between the themes and the look of the film, and the awe-inspiring control, but surprising restraint Greengrass has with the action sequences makes it exceptional.